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2013-03-05

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Wolverines win three of four at Snowbird Invitational

Terra Molengraff/Daily
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By Shannon Lynch, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 5, 2013

Hundreds of Michigan students traveled to Florida for spring break this week to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The Michigan baseball team also made the trip down south, but its time spent in the Sunshine state was far from a vacation.

The Wolverines played four games at the Snowbird Invitational in Port Charlotte, Fla., this past weekend and finished 3-1, recording their only loss in the first game of a doubleheader against St. Louis. Michigan showcased its talented and versatile offense, and the experience from the weekend is one that coach Erik Bakich will use as he continues to reform and adjust his young bullpen.

It looked as though Michigan would start the invitational 0-1 on Friday, when the team entered the eighth inning against Mount St. Mary’s down one run. The Wolverines have struggled since the beginning of this season to finish games, losing all three games in their season opening series against Cal in the last few innings of each game.

But the momentum suddenly changed when sophomore pitcher Kyle Jusick broke the 7-all tie with a single to right field. Junior outfielder Michael O’Neill, who currently leads the team with a .442 batting average, boosted the offensive lineup by going 4-for-5 with four singles, three stolen bases and two runs scored. O'Neill scored the tying run in the eighth inning after earning his third stolen base of the game.

“Our offense is able to explode for a big inning at any time and because of that, we know we’re never out of a game, regardless if we’re down quite a few runs or not,” Bakich said. “We’ve been able to find our way on base and put pressure on teams, and that’s gonna be one of our staples moving forward.”

On Saturday, the Wolverines took on St. Louis in a doubleheader. The Billikens outscored Michigan 8-5 in the first game, scoring four runs in the first two innings and four more before the end of the eighth. Inconsistent pitching and defensive errors overshadowed Michigan’s success at the plate. Sophomore right-hander James Bourque, who gave up 11 hits, five earned runs and two walks in five innings, was tagged with the loss.

In the nightcap, the Wolverines offense exploded early, earning six runs in the first three innings and four more in the fifth. Freshman pitcher Evan Hill had a stellar performance and earned his second win this season, allowing only two hits in six innings of play, while Michigan shut out St. Louis, 11-0.

Senior captain Patrick Biondi was 3-for-4 with three singles, two runs scored, and reached base five times in six at-bats. Biondi stole his 91st career base in fifth inning, becoming the new program leader in career stolen bases, beating the previous record set by Eric Rose (2004-07).

“I mean obviously it’s a great honor, especially with 147 years of great tradition at the University and a lot of great players that have come before me, so it’s an honor to be in the record books and something that I’m definitely proud of and appreciate,” Biondi said.

In its final game of the Snowbird Invitational, Michigan took on Georgetown, and sophomore pitcher Trent Skuztnik had an excellent outing – five strikeouts and only five hits and two runs in seven innings of play.

His success on the mound, combined with another strong offensive performances by the Wolverines, including Biondi (2-for-4) and O’Neill (2-for-3), sealed the deal for Michigan, and they defeated the Hoyas 5-2.

“Establishing our roles is still a work in progress, said Bakich. “We’re eleven games into the season and still figuring out exactly who needs to go where to put them in the best position to have success individually and give our team the best chance to win.”